Eric Gil: From dreaming to flying 747s

Eric Gil: From dreaming to flying 747s

About my dream to become a pilot and the story of how I got there

My pilot's life started when I was three years old. In my mother's kitchen, there was a high stool. I would lay my belly flat down on it and shout: "I am the flying man." Later that afternoon, I found a parasol in the garage and took it to the top of a steep slope in the garden. I would jump off as I was trying to create small flights that seemed to be real flights. I have been passionate about flying my whole life ever since. When I was 18 years old, I experienced my first real flight when I enrolled in the Artillery Airborne Company 35eme R.A.P from the French Army.

Two years later, in 1980, a new type of flying sport started in the French Alps. Called “Hang Gliders," I had such an attraction for this extreme sport that I decided to build my entire life around aviation and specifically Commercial Aviation. With great determination and hard work, I successfully passed all of my Air Transport pilot examinations at the ENAC (French National School of Aviation). I completed my training flights at the National Flight Academy in Toulouse and Grenoble. After graduating from flight school in May 1986, I was offered my first Aeronautical Pilot’s Job on the French Riviera, pulling advertising banners along the beaches.

A pilot's career is all about training and experience. After years of flying, I built up an incredible amount of knowledge that leads me to the ultimate position of Captain.

In September 1996, I was promoted “Air Transport Pilot Captain” on the MD-83 (McDonnel Douglas) series plane for the French airline AOM [Air-Outre Mer]. I was carrying 169 passengers every day on either French domestic flights or charters all over Africa and Mediterranean countries.

I achieved what I would say is the peak of my career in 2007. That year, I joined Jade Cargo International, a China Airlines subsidiary, as a Boeing 747 Captain based on their Shenzhen hub.

From my mother’s kitchen stool to the “Queen of the Sky” 747, my pilot's career has now been fulfilled. My mentor throughout my pilot career has always been Antoine de Saint Exupery with his fabulous book "Vol de Nuit." In it he writes: "There are in every crowd ... men who cannot be distinguished, and who are prodigious messengers without knowing it themselves."

Today after more than 20 years of piloting, I am proud to have worked in the aviation business, connecting thousands of passengers safely and delivering tons of cargo worldwide

Photos courtesy of Eric Gilles

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